Monthly Archives: February 2010

Are you a calm, attentive driver?

This morning, a woman in a green Chevy cut in front of a blue Honda driver in a snap. He swerved out of his lane onto the right lane, causing a black Ford truck to jerk into the bicycle lane. Had a cyclist been present there at that instant, he/she would certainly have been crushed to death.

Lots of honking ensued.

As I pulled next to the lady in the green car I saw that she was on the phone, had a map open on her steering wheel, and was gesturing as if she didn’t know where to head. The guy in the blue Honda had rolled down his window and he was shouting profanities. While the tattooed Ford driver, now behind her, was showing her his middle finger.

This wasn’t a new sight, but the reason I write about it today is precisely that — it has become commonplace.

During my daily commute I see drivers honking, giving each other the middle finger, cutting across lanes dangerously, almost running over pedestrians even when the latter have the right of way, and turning left at a traffic signal way past their green light.

And then there are those texting, talking on the phone, applying eye-liner, painting their nails, watching a DVD (yes, I’ve seen that!!), reading the newspaper, eating and holding the phone at the same time, and turning around to feed their toddler in the back seat — these are the folks who ask for all the honking and the verbal abuses. We have laws against some of these things these distracted drivers indulge in, but they could care less!

It amazes me how, when we are driving a vehicle, we forget that we’re not just responsible for the lives of those traveling with us, but also our co-motorists.

It’s not until we lose someone close to us that we feel the impact of this unsafe behavior.

But isn’t it too late by then?

What have we to gain from an extra two-to-five seconds? Why do we put our life in jeopardy just to make that green signal, only to queue up at the next red one? Why are we so uncivil, so uncouth in the face of anonymity? Why can’t we stop somewhere, finish our lunch and then carry on — all it takes is five minutes! Can’t that glossy lip liner be applied in the parking lot of wherever it is you’re headed? Can’t you tell the person on the phone you’ll pull over and call back? Why does anything go? Just because the driver you’re bumping will most likely not chase you down and demand an apology?

New York topped the list as America’s Road Rage Capital in 2009, but I see more and more of it happening in the Bay Area despite California being the only state in the country to have a court-ordered suspension for this “assault.”

I don’t have any answers or an explanation for this complete and utter disregard of human life, but I hope some of you reading this will recognize this as an opportunity to amend your ways and ask those unsafe drivers in your life to amend theirs.

Getting that tweet out when you’re merging onto the highway is not worth your life! And cursing someone out only increases your blood pressure.

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I am my own woman

We were newlyweds at the Lucknow airport checking in for our flight to New Delhi, onwards to San Francisco — we had been assigned seats a couple of rows away from each other, so we requested to be seated together. The agent refused. “You don’t have the same last names,” he said.

Wait. What?

I was still wearing the traditional new bride jewelry (the red and white bangles being the most distinct give-away) and despite repeated attempts at clarifying we were husband and wife and I had opted to retain my maiden name, he wouldn’t budge. Finally he called his supervisor. I, in turn, called my dad, who had come to see us off, to vouch for our matrimonial status.

After half an hour of back and forth, we finally got adjoining seats.

It was bizarre.

Two years later we made our first trip back as a married couple. During the last leg of the flight, the attendant asked my husband what he wanted to drink. He said, “Coke” and the attendant moved on. I turned to my husband and asked, “What about me?” He gave me a blank look and shrugged. I shouted “excuse me” a couple of times, but apparently it didn’t register. A couple of minutes later, the attendant got my husband and me the same drink.

I don’t drink Coke. So, I said to him — “I didn’t ask for this. In fact, you never asked me what I wanted!” He immediately shot back, “He is your husband. I assumed you’d drink the same thing as him!”

(Needless to say, we’re never flying Air India again.)

And I was treated like this during our entire stay — we were in Rajasthan for a week and the auto-drivers wouldn’t negotiate with me … they would only talk to my husband. The locals we engaged with would see through me. Some even gave me the look that said loud and clear “Shut up!”

I felt suffocated. And offended. Here in my own country, I had no voice. And I realized that all these years, I had only been my father’s daughter. When he “gave me away” on my wedding day, I became my husband’s wife.

That was all there was. My identity as an individual was determined by whom I belonged to.

For 21 years, my parents had sheltered me from the sexist attitudes of the relatively small town we lived in. The two times I stepped out of the house (once to do a year-long computer course and the second time for my job), I lived in the metros — Delhi and Bombay seemed to treat independent, working women with a tad more respect. Or so I felt in my limited experiences.

But having been exposed to life in the States where I was known for my work, respected for my professionalism, and recognized as “bright young asset” to my team, gender aside, going back in that environment made me realize how good women have it here. Here I have my own identity, my own place, my own voice. Decisions aren’t made for me and people acknowledge me as an individual.

I am valued for who I am, not the family I come from or the guy I married.

And heck, why do I have to be the only one to “belong”? Just as my husband married me, I married him. So, he “owns” me as much me as I own him.

And my name is a big part of my identity, just as his is for him.

I don’t necessarily claim to be a feminist, but it feels demeaning to me to be discounted just because by accident of birth I happen to be a female. I, too, have a place in this world. My place. My status. My identity.

I take pride in being a spirited individual and want to be recognized such. So what if I am a woman?

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P.S. I thank my parents and my husband — the former for raising me to be a self-respecting person and the latter for bolstering my confidence.

Submitted as a non competitive entry for Indus Ladies International Women’s Day blog contest.


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The three M’s

As I read Tony Anders’ inspiring blog post about the journey of a thousand miles starting with a single step, I was struck by this line:

I have found that for me, movement creates motivation, and motivation turns into momentum!

This sentence stayed with me. I had not realized that this is exactly what I have been doing with this blog until I read it on Tony’s.

I took a single step in reviving this blog last month — that was movement.

It has helped me become disciplined and write out my thoughts in a somewhat-cohesive manner. It allows for self-expression and motivates me to become a better writer, a more open-minded thinker with a less constricted worldview.

It spurs new ideas and forces me to think harder and longer. It provides me clarity.

And with my readers’ participation it has become an even bigger motivator — to share, to converse, to debate, to grow.

I hope, in time, it will turn into momentum — I hope I will be able to use my experiences here and harness all the good that comes out of this blog to write a book. I hope that the momentum generated, thus, will touch the hearts and minds of so many more people. I hope it will provide me with the challenge I seek and the satisfaction I crave.

So far, I’m hazy on the subject of my book, but I am encouraged to take on that project given the readership of this blog. It gives me confidence that there are people out there who will read the story I have to share. It may not be something unique, or out of this world, but it will have heart. It will have my voice. My perception of the world we live in. It will carry my story. I see it as one of those legacies I’ll leave behind — my words, my thoughts, my ponderings.

This is one step in a long journey of self-fulfillment. Thanks for being part of it and keeping me motivated.

Think there’s “the perfect” book idea for me? Let me know!

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Hidden treasures

Sometimes you stumble on the most beautiful things by straying away from the beaten path. On Sunday as we were trying to find parking along the street close to de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, we heard a lot of honking. Drivers trying to cut into parking spots from behind while people were trying to reverse into them — it was happening everywhere. Impatience reigned. So did frustration.

After half an hour of being stuck in a jam, going to the parking garage only to find it was full, and driving around the perimeter of the museum, we took a right turn. Found a spot a quarter of a mile up a hill … it was raining, we were late by 45 minutes for our showing of the King Tut exhibit, and there was a 20-minute walk ahead of us … not the ideal situation. I was cribbing as I walked — wondering why we didn’t take a cab to the park instead.

And then we spotted this lake.

Quiet, serene, peaceful.

Just like that, the day lit up for me. The rain stopped being a nuisance. The fact that we had to walk almost a mile and then plead to the museum staff to let us in stopped bothering me. The lake was a discovery we wouldn’t have made if we had found parking closer to the museum, or if we’d taken a cab.

We stopped by the lakeside again on our walk back to the car. It was the highlight of the day (sorry, King Tut). It was an oasis of calm in the middle of chaos.

It offered respite from the throngs of people everywhere. The mad rush. The sense of urgency to “get someplace.”

Reminded me that sometimes you encounter the most interesting things when not following the “plan.” Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and see what happens. Sometimes off-track is a lot better than on-track.

If you’re always following the most logical, expedient, efficient road to your intended destination, you might be missing out on some hidden treasures.

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I see wonderful things

With a kid’s eyes — colorful, happy, simple, fast.

With wonderment and innocence.

With awe and surprise. My eyes glistening, my mouth wide open, my breath short.

With a zeal to enjoy the moment. Live in it. And then move on to the next.

With equal excitement.

I saw wonderful things this past weekend at the California Academy of Sciences.

Thirty-eight thousand fish in vivid technicolor — personalities ranging from the quiet and reserved to the prancing and twirling show-offs; expressions ranging from the morbid to the ever-joyful; energy ranging from the languid to the sprightly. All beautiful in their own way.

I was mesmerized by the electric eel, the light emitting firefly-like fish, and the leafy sea dragon. Surprised at the agility of the water snakes . And kept retracing my steps to the glass fish. There were the five-year-olds huddled around the tide pools. And there was me.

It was a whole new world. And I was a kid who didn’t want to leave.

But on the other side, there were more amazing things to see in the Rainforests of the World: geckos, chameleons, frogs, the anaconda, and hundreds of butterflies.

I was transported to Costa Rica, Borneo, Madagascar, the Amazonian flooded forest. The smells, the sounds, the sights all teasing me — here was just a taste. A sampling, if you will. It strengthened my resolve to visit these places … some day … and to appreciate all the ordinary, yet so extraordinary, inhabitants we share this planet with.

To see the world with new eyes. To enjoy. To relish. To take in the beauty.

To see wonderful things.

Oh, to be a kid again.

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A marriage of lies

I watched about 10 minutes of the Tiger Woods apology this morning. Seeing this iconic figure say to the world “I failed you,” was moving. He’s not the first man in time to have strayed from his values, his family, his wife. Many before him have faltered. Have cheated. Have lied.

Many continue to do so. And will.

There’s something about the sanctity of marriage that is so binding for these folks — men or women — who give in to temptation. Affairs offer an escape from the humdrum of the lifelong agreement they signed. Those who cheat want the best of both worlds. Some do it for companionship. Some to rescue their self-esteem. Most do it for sex. To relive the rush, the excitement, the spirit of adventure that has long died in their routine matrimonial lives.

Woods said he didn’t think that the normal rules of marriage applied to him. “I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy the temptations around me,” he explained. “I felt I was entitled.” And his money and fame made it even easier to slip.

The media crucified him — he was after all the guy who had changed the game of golf. From a pastime for rich, old men to an international sensation. His name had become synonymous with the greens. Everywhere. He was Tiger Woods. How could he let that get to his head?

Through his transgressions he showed them — us — that he was just a man. An ordinary human being with failings. Weak. Selfish. Irresponsible. Vain.

But sorry.

For now, at least.

It’s hard to believe that someone who’s repeatedly made the same mistake would mend his ways. As much as society and media pressure him into walking the line, it’s his character that will need to stand the test of time. His will. His mind. His heart. He will need to be true to himself. And to his partner.

At the end of the day, it’s not about the media, the society, the family, the sponsors, or the fans. It’s about two people who made a promise to each other.

Some people wrote him off when the news of his affairs first broke. But it seems he’s getting a second chance.

I hope he makes the best of it because he certainly won’t get a third.

Interesting tidbit: Only 35 percent of marriages in America survive an affair. See infidelity statistics on Truth About Deception and AdulteryTips.

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What does “a calling” mean anyways?

Over lunch one day a friend was telling me about Chip Conley‘s book, How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow. She was impressed with his philosophy of using the model for personal success and translating that to businesses. Taking it from one individual’s “peak experiences” and applying them to corporate transformation. Part of it was evaluating which slot one puts one’s professional enterprise in: a job, a career, or a calling.

I understand what a job is — it’s the oft-mundane 9-5 grunt work that pays the bills. It usually doesn’t involve passion, vision, or aspiration.

I think I also understand what a career is — it’s when you take off those blinkers at that job and chart a plan for your professional growth. It is a commitment to improving your opportunities, your salary, and provides some amount of satisfaction. In some cases, it defines who you are, what you stand for, and where you’re headed.

A calling … hmm … now that’s a word I don’t fully comprehend. According to various websites, dictionaries, and blog posts, it is work that gives you immense satisfaction. You wouldn’t necessarily even want to be paid for it. It defines for folks their “purpose” in life.

Bu what is our purpose in life? A friend told me yesterday, she thinks it’s something that stems from one’s beliefs. But how do you form your beliefs? Aren’t your beliefs based on the knowledge you have at any given point of time? And if that is so, shouldn’t they change as you grow, are exposed to new ideas, thoughts, people…? And if your beliefs change, then doesn’t your purpose in life also shift?

So, how do we say that a calling is something constant. That somehow you know this is the one and only thing you were born to do. Isn’t that really a way of saying that at this point of time in your life, given all you know about yourself and your surroundings, this is the best you can do with your talent, time, energy, and expertise? And because at this particular point of time you think this is the best use of your potential, that it gives you immense satisfaction? Ergo, this is your calling … for now.

Of course, this led to a whole new stream of questions about what potential is — both perceived and actual — and how we define time. But that’s another blog post.

I hear many people say that their work is their calling — they drop the word around so casually even though it supposedly carries so much weight … but here I am … not even sure what that word means.

I love writing. I always have. In my journey to becoming a writer, I explored many other options but wasn’t very good at any of those. Writing grounds me. It helps me grow as a person. It helps me connect. It satisfies me when I write for myself — like this blog. I don’t get paid for this, yet I do this every single day — so does it mean that this is my “calling”?

Does it also then imply that I have reached the highest point of my potential? That there really isn’t anything in this world besides writing that would give me the same satisfaction? That nothing else will come close to challenging me, uplifting me? That this is the end?

But there are so many things out there I haven’t even tried. Some things I don’t even know about, forget trying. Then how can I limit myself to one calling? How can I tell myself this is all I was born to do? Maybe there’s a host of other things I can do well and derive satisfaction from … how can I say just this is it?

Just like we’re moving away from the idea of having only one career in a lifetime, can’t we at least look at having more than one calling in life? Maybe there is something to that whole concept that needs a little revisiting …

Maybe not?

What do you think “a calling” means anyways?

Also posted on Writers Rising.

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